FRONTIER County is situated well toward the southwestern part of the State. It is bounded on the north by Lincoln and Dawson Counties, on the east by Gosper, on the south by Furnas and Red Willow, and on the west by Hayes County. The county is twenty-four miles in extent from north to south, and forty-two miles from east to west.
The principal stream of the county is Big Medicine Creek, which rises in the southern part of Lincoln County, entering Frontier near the northwest corner. It flows southeast across the county and enters into the Republican at Cambridge, in Furnas county.
Fox Creek rises in the southern part of Lincoln County, flows south and empties into Medicine Creek, two miles from the mouth of Curtis Creek.
Curtis Fork rises in Lincoln County, runs directly south and empties into the Medicine at Curtis Post Office, eight miles northwest of Stockville.
Dry Creek rises in the northern part of Frontier County, emptying into Medicine one mile below Curtis.
Mitchell's Fork, named in honor of Col. Mitchell, who once commanded at Fort McPherson, rises near the northern boundary, flows south and enters the Medicine nine miles east of Stockville.
Deer Creek rises in Lincoln County, flows southeast, entering the Republican at Burton's Bend, in Furnas County.
Muddy Creek rises in the northeast part of the county, running southeast, and enters the Republican at Arapahoe, in Furnas County.
Brush Creek rises in Frontier, flows east and enters the Medicine five miles above Curtis.
Spring Creek rises in Frontier near the northwest corner of the county, flows southeast and empties into the Medicine, three-fourths of a mile from Stockville.
Cedar Creek enters the Medicine from the southwest, flowing through the farm of E.G. Nesbitt, one mile southeast from Stockville.
Walnut, Elk and Lime Creeks flow east and empty into the Medicine, southeast from Stockville, at a distance of three, six and twelve miles, respectively.
Coyote Creek rises near the northern boundary, flows south and enters the Medicine at Webster's Ranch.
There are also many small streams in the county, too small to be designated by name, which yet are of great value for stock-raising, furnishing an abundance of clear, pure water.
The Medicine and several of its largest tributaries are skirted with a quite heavy growth of timber. These trees are ash, box-elder, elm, cottonwood, hackberry, cedar and a small number of black walnut. Wild plum and cherry are found on nearly all these streams and produce very fine fruit. Wild grapes and wild currants grow in immense quantities.
The bottom lands along the above streams are low, broad and very fertile. They are covered with a luxuriant growth of wild grass of different varieties, which grow thick on the ground and to an immense height. The leading kinds are blue joint and an excellent quality of redtop, which produces from two and one-half to four tons of hay to the acre in many places.
The bottom lands are subject to overflow and produce fine crops and vegetables. These fertile bottom lands have been known to produce as high as seventy-five bushels of corn per acre.
The table-lands, or divides, between the creeks are covered with a dense growth of buffalo grass; the cañons, or draws, have a tall growth of a very nutritious wild grass, which is said by stock-raisers to be superior in quality to the well-known timothy grass.
The surface of the county is very broken, being cut up in all directions by the numerous draws and cañons. The steep hills thus formed furnish the very best of land for pasturage. Where the streams are some distance apart, the divides are generally nearly level and present a beautiful appearance. The soil throughout the county is very fertile, but, on account of the dryness of the climate, farming is not carried on, except to a very slight extent, on the level bottom lands.
On account of the heavy growth of rich grass and the numerous streams, Frontier County was, during the very earliest years of stock-raising in Nebraska, selected by the cattlemen as one of the very best of herding-grounds, and, up to the present time, stock-raising is the principal and only industry of any importance, carried on in the county.
The county was organized in January, 1872. At that time, there were several stock-raisers in the county and two permanent settlers. The last two were Henry C. and Mortimer H. Clifford, who had married Indian squaws and settled on the Medicine, a short distance from the present town of Stockville, where they lived in lodges.
The cattle-owners had selected this location on account of the rich pasturage, and, fearing that settlers might crowd in upon them, they took measures to organize a county here, thinking to select a location about midway between the Platte and Republican Valleys, and thereby pass a county law, compelling farmers to fence their land so that cattle could run at large.
At the time of the organization of the county, January 5, 1872, the following persons met at the Indian lodge occupied by Henry C. Clifford and his family: John Bratt, Mortimer H. Clifford, William H. Miles, Samuel F. Watts, John Y. Nelson, Arthur Roff, John D. Jones, James D. Kerr, Elias Miller, E.G. Nesbitt, Ambrose S. Shelley, Robert Cooper and Asa McManus. When the business of the evening was nearly concluded, and the papers were to be signed, it was found that there was not a penholder in the possession of any member of the party. After considerable search, an old steel pen was found, and was made ready for use by being tied with a string to a piece of dry weed stalk. This pen and holder is now in the possession of E.G. Nesbitt. The lodge where this meeting was held is about three miles from Stockville, the present county seat, which is located almost in the geographical center of the county.
The first County Clerk, John W. Kirby, received his commission, dated January 18, 1872, from the Acting Governor of Nebraska, William H. James, after which the organization of the county may be said to have been complete. The remaining county officers were Samuel F. Watts, Judge; John Bratt, William H. Miles and M. H. Clifford, Commissioners; H. C. Clifford, Sheriff; Levi Carter, Treasurer; John D. Jones, Coroner; Arthur Roff, Justice of the Peace; John Y. Nelson, Surveyor; E.G. Nesbitt, Superintendent of Schools; James D. Kerr, Registrar; Elias Miller, Assessor.
The first meeting of the Board of County Commissioners took place February 5, 1872, at which time the official bonds of the county officers were examined and approved. There were so few persons in the county that each voter was required as a bondsman, and, in some instances, one man signed a number of bonds.
A special election was held April 1, 1872 for the purpose of voting as to whether or not the herd law should be suspended in Frontier County. A law of the State provided that each cattle-owner should herd his stock and keep them off the cultivated lands. At this time, there were two voting-places in the county -- one at Carter, which was simply Coe, Carter & Co.'s stock ranch, and the other at Stockville, which consisted only of the residences of E.G. Nesbitt and Judge Watts. The entire number of votes polled at Carter were sixteen and all were for suspension. The number of votes polled at Stockville was thirteen, of which twelve were for suspension, and one -- that of A. McManus -- against. Therefore, the herd law was suspended in this county, and cattle ever since been allowed to run at large. This has proven a wise course, as stock-raising is the leading industry of the county, and it is much more to the interests of the county at large for the few farmers to fence and protect their crops.
The first tax levy was made July 1, 1872, this being at the rate of 15 mills on the dollar, at which rate the taxes were assessed for several years. The county affairs were carried on at a very small expense, as for the first four years none of the county officers drew any salary, except the Clerk.
The first and only liquor license ever granted in the county was on July 1, 1872 to Henry C. Clifford, at $25 for the year.
The first Justice of the Peace, Arthur Roff, never had a case before him during his term of office. The first Surveyor, John Y. Nelson, knew nothing of surveying, and, of course had nothing to do. The Judge, Samuel F. Watts, was a practical Surveyor and an able and highly cultivated gentleman, who is now a resident of North Platte, Representative in the Legislature for this district and Surveyor of Lincoln County.
At the general election, held October 8, 1872, the following officers were elected: Clerk, E. G. Nesbitt; Commissioner, John Bratt; Justices of the Peace, D. B. Palmer and C. W. Halsey; Assessor, A. S. Shelley; Constable, John Fretcher. Each of the officers elected received twenty-nine votes. There were no opposition candidates and no scratching of tickets.
The first death in the county occurred August 30, 1873. An educated young man, Daniel Young, who was working for H. C. Clifford, had been drinking heavily for some time, and, on the above date, went to the residence of E. G. Nesbitt for a visit, but, being despondent, took poison, from the effects of which he died.
The first marriage in the county was in 1874, and the contracting parties were Charles L. Miller and Miss Ella Davis, who were married at the residence of E.G. Nesbitt, Judge Watts officiating. This couple, however, parted early in the honeymoon.
The second marriage took place the same year. The wedded parties were Indians, called Andy and Nancy, both of whom had lived with the whites from childhood and spoke English fluently. They were married at the residence of W. H. Miles, and D. B. Palmer, a Justice of the Peace, officiated. The newly-wedded couple parted in less than two months, thus imitating their white predecessors.
On the date appointed for the general election in October, 1873, there was no election held, for the reason that every man in the county was out on the cattle range fighting a prairie fire that threatened to do much damage. Therefore, on December 23, 1873, the County Commissioners met and appointed the following officers to fill the county offices for the ensuing two years: S. P. Barker, Judge; H. C. Clifford, Sheriff; J. W. Lockwood, Coroner; O. P. Kibben, Treasurer; E. G. Nesbitt, Clerk, and S. F. Watts, Surveyor.
Frontier County was once the home of Dr. W. F. Carver, the famous rifle-shot of America. It is said that it was here that he acquired the skill for which he is noted, practicing with the lady who is now the wife of Hon. D. C. Ballentine, and who taught him a great deal.
Frontier County has since its organization increased in population but slowly, the population being now only about 1,000, and these are nearly all cattlemen, either the owners of cattle or their employes. Along a few of the creeks there are farmers, but they are not numerous, except in the eastern part of the county, on Muddy Creek, where farming is carried on on the bottom lands to a considerable extent, and where good crops are raised.
The affairs of the county have continued to move on in an even manner, with little or nothing transpiring other than the usual course of events incident to the raising of stock in a new and thinly settled country. Cattle and horses are raised extensively, and are a source of great wealth to their owners. As yet, but few sheep are raised in the county.
There has been little crime committed and no criminal deeds of any consequence are recorded, and the fact is demonstrated that the cattlemen, or cowboys, are not, as a rule, so dangerous, bad and desperate, as a few instances where gangs of ruffians among them have raided settlers and Western towns, would indicate. While the cowboy is not as a general thing a paragon of virtue or gentle manners, he may as a rule be said to compare favorably with those engaged in other occupations. It is true, his life is in a manner a wild one, and serves to make him rough in his bearing, but it is only the rough characters who have been driven to the frontier by their misdeeds and taken this occupation to furnish themselves a livelihood, and have organized themselves into a lawless and ruffianly band, who are dangerous to a peaceable society. Toward the peaceable and law-abiding settlers or farmers this class feel an utter contempt, and spare no pains to harass them. Such lawless deeds are, however, with a few exceptions, deprecated by the extensive cattle-owners.
Though it has now been more than ten years since the organization of the county, there is not a professional man living within its limits, who depends on his profession for a livelihood. There is not a physician, lawyer, preacher or editor in the county.
This is the county seat of Frontier County and is located almost in the geographical center of the county. Though termed a town, it consists only of one little store and a few residences. It is, in fact, only a sort of headquarters for the cattlemen. Its population is about sixty. The town was located here immediately after the organization of the county for the purpose of having a fixed location where the county records could be deposited.
Stockville is the residence of Hon. D. C. Ballentine, State Senator from the Senatorial District comprising Western Nebraska.
There are in the county a number of post offices, but no town except Stockville. The following are the names of the post offices: Afton, Curtis, Equality, Laird, Orifino, Osburn and Stowe.
EVERETT G. NESBITT, of Stockville, Neb., located there about Christmas, 1871. He was one of the very earliest settlers; was the first Postmaster, and built the second building there. He was, in January, 1872, on the organization of the county, appointed Superintendent of Schools, by Gov. W. H. James. Owing to the death of the county clerk soon after, he was appointed in his place, to which position he was elected on October 8, 1872, and was re-elected for several terms. He was born at Philadelphia, Penn., January 28, 1834. When a child, he removed with his parents to Greenville, Penn.; attended school here until sixteen years of age, when he entered a drug store as a clerk. In 1857, he removed to Iowa, and on May 22, 1861, he enlisted in Company B, First Iowa Cavalry, known as the Hawkeye Rangers. He was discharged November 16, 1861, and re-enlisted at Davenport, Iowa in Company A, Iowa Infantry. During the war, he was engaged as Quartermaster and Provost Marshal's Clerk. He was mustered out November 16, 1864. He was married, May 7, 1856, to Miss Louisa Johnson, of Bridgeport, Conn. They had one child born in April, 1857.